Friday, January 31, 2014

TTouch and Reiki at Bideawee: Update on Selena

Ever since I began doing TTouch with Selena two weeks ago, her whole demeanor has begun to change, you can see it in her body language, her face and her whole vibe.  It is such a joy to see this dear cat opening up and feeling so much more at ease.

Today when I went to work with her, the minute she saw me she started reaching to me through the cage.  We let her out of the cage and she went on top of one of the cages where there is a cozy place for her to settle, and I began doing TTouches with the paintbrush and, at times, directly with my fingers.  She was leaning into the brush, moving into my hand, really enjoying the contact.

At one point I took a break and began to work with another cat, Pasqualino (more about him at another time), and she came down from where she was and began walking towards me.  She walked right up to me, looked up at me as if to ask if she could come on my lap and I tapped my lap, encouraging her to do so, and up she came.  I wanted to be sure she didn't suddenly get scared once she was there, as she can have moments where she gets frightened or overstimulated, so I stayed still, with one of my hands there in case she wanted to rub into it.  It is a very gentle dance, letting her take the lead.  She began to rub her head into my hand, and stayed on my lap for several minutes.  She did this several times during the time I was there.

It is so delightful to see her opening up, to see her looking so much more at ease.  Look forward to seeing you soon, Selena!

Friday, January 24, 2014

TTouch and Reiki at Bideawee: Quieting the Space with Panther

Panther is a handsome long-haired black cat at Bideawee shelter who was rescued, along with his sister Samantha, when they were being evicted from the store where they were living.  Samantha is extremely outgoing, whereas Panther is very shy.

His beautiful, quiet energy does remind me of a panther, and I have been mindful to especially quiet my own energy down when working with him.

Quieting the space can happen in a few ways.  First comes quieting down my own energy.  Then, in the process of Reiki, TTouch, or both, the energy from these modalities feels like it literally changes the feeling in the space, even the texture of the air.

Panther is in a room (called a "resort") with several other cats.  There are toys, things to climb on (great use of vertical space in these rooms) and some nice little hidey spaces for privacy so he is quite comfortable there.  Bideawee puts a lot of care into how the rooms are set up and which cats are together so that everyone can be comfortable.

When I first started working with Panther, he seemed so scared that I decided that the best way to start with him was to share Reiki with him, at a short distance.  If he was on an upper level in the room, I would sit down and just begin to offer it from where I was, and he would gradually come closer to where I was.  If he was down on a lower level, I would stand a couple of feet from where he was.  Little by little, I would see signs of him absorbing the energy: his eyes closing, his body starting to relax. 

At times, I would then see if I could do TTouches or strokes with him with a paintbrush or feather.  Sometimes, even this remote contact seemed a little much for him, so I would go back to doing Reiki from a short distance.  Other times, he would start to enjoy the contact, especially being stroked under his chin.  Being touched on his body was too overwhelming.  
So I would try to take the cues from him of where he was for any particular day, but then gently see if I could nudge him forward a bit, try something new.  Even if we seemed to go two steps forward and one back at times, I always felt we were continually moving forward and gradually establishing trust. 

I have found in general, that if he is in an enclosed place, he feels safer about being approached and is more apt to be responsive to TTouch. 

Yesterday, he was on a lower level and in the little enclosure you see in the photos that is part of a cat tree in the room.  He was looking out of one opening, and there was an opening on the side that I could put my hand through.  I didn’t want to move my hand towards his face, as that would have scared him. 
I started out by sending him Reiki from where I was (I was kneeling down so I was lowering my body position), and he soon was blinking and closing his eyes.  I spoke to him softly, telling him ahead of time what I was going to try (usually this I would do silently). Then I gently put the paintbrush through the side opening and began to do TTouch circles with him on his forehead.  He immediately began to relax into it, instead of his initial reaction being to pull away.  I would do a little bit, then pause, and then try a little more.  I stroked him underneath his chin with the paintbrush and he started to lean into it a little bit.  For him, this was very good progress.  In the clip above, you will see just a few moments of my work with him.  Such a pleasure to see him start to relax and close his eyes.
Then I decided to try something new.  I began to send him Reiki holding one hand a few inches above his solar plexus chakra (in the middle of the back).  One of the things this chakra has to do with is confidence, sense of self.  I felt a good amount of heat there.  After a bit, I just stroked him lightly, a few strokes, on his upper back, and he was ok with that.  I kept sending him Reiki.  In addition to Reiki near the solar plexus chakra, I also sent him Reiki directed at his heart chakra, which is in the center of the upper back, as I feel this is an area that could use healing. 
Then after a few minutes, I tried a few TTouch circles with him on his upper back. He was a tiny bit tentative but didn't pull away, even settled a bit.  I was doing circular TTouches with much of my hand in contact, either Lying Leopard TTouch or Abalone TTouch (see my youtube channel for demos).  This was the first time that he didn’t pull away and get frightened when I made contact in that area of his body.  Such a delight to feel him start to settle into the TTouches, to feel that connection, to feel that trust.
I didn’t want to push it so I didn’t do this too many times.  Something to always remember is that a little bit can be a LOT for a frightened animal, and generally less is more. 

I worked with a couple of other cats who are in the same room with Panther, then came back to him for a few moments, working with him around his head with the paintbrush, and again he was comfortable. 

Each time I went to work with him again, and each time I have worked with him previously, I have had in my consciousness the idea of quieting the space, quieting the space.
When I left the room, he was relaxed and blinking and closing his eyes.  Look forward to working with you again soon Panther!!!!
And thanks to all the people at Bideawee for all the love and care they give to these special creatures :)

Monday, January 20, 2014

TTouch with Selena at Bideawee - A Little Bit Goes a Long Way

Recently I taught some TTouch workshops at Bideawee, and I enjoyed it there so much that I began volunteering there.  The shelter is very thoughtfully set up for the animals and is staffed by such caring people - a great place! 

And it has been a joy to re-connect with Kerrie McKeon, one of the main keepers of the kitties at bideawee and cat expert extraodinaire.  Check out her website,  We met at the first TTouch training I took in NYC some years back. 

There are quite a few cats who I would love to share about, but first I will tell you about Selena.

Selena is a beautiful nine year old cat.  She can be wary, and initially hesitant to being approached and to being touched, so in my first session with her, I did Reiki with her with my hands about half a foot away, which she was quite comfortable with.  She was out of her cage at this point (the cats who are caged have a chance to be out of their cages on a rotating basis), and settled on a towel on top of one of the cages.  This felt like a good way to get her acquainted with my energy, giving her some space and time to trust me.  She settled right into the calming energy, tucking her legs under her body and closing her eyes.

The second time I worked with her, which was yesterday, I decided to see if I could do some TTouches with her, using a paintbrush as a tool, so that would still give her some space. 

Even with the paintbrush, I knew that it would have to be a little at a time at first.  The first couple of times I approached her with the paintbrush, she was a bit unsure, batting at it or moving away from it.  I gave her a minute, and the next time I made sure she had a chance to sniff it, and she rubbed her face into it, then the next time rubbed her face and body against it and rolled on her side.  A connection had been made. 

The whole time, I had been silently telling her that I was here to help her, that she need only do as much or as little as she was ready to do.  It is so important for the animals to feel that they have a choice, and that they are not being forced to do something.

Giving Selena plenty of breaks, I let her sniff again, and again she rubbed her face against the brush.  I did a few TTouches and strokes on the outside of her mouth.  I repeated this a few times, and then found that she was particularly responsive to TTouch circles on the top of her head.

I slowed the circles down as I went, pausing at the end of each circle and a quarter, consciously slowing my own thoughts down, as though I was hearing them in slow motion.  I like to do this because the animal picks up on that slowing down of the energy and it helps them to relax.  Her eyes began to close and I actually started hearing a purrrrrrr.  I got a bit closer to make sure it was her purring, and... it was.

Every so often I would pause, taking the brush away and observing what she was doing. Each time she got more and more settled, getting into very sleepy mode.  Each time I put the paintbrush back, I didn't get a pulling away, but instead, she relaxed right into it.

She was getting so relaxed with what I was doing, that I decided to try transitioning to using my finger to do the TTouches.  Slowly I worked my hand down the handle of the paintbrush, keeping it there so that I could go back to using it if I needed to. 

You will see in the video just a small portion of our work, showing how I went from using the paintbrush to using my finger.  It is best not to rush this process - to make sure that they are completely comfortable with being touched with the paintbrush or other tool before transitioning to using the hand.

I really felt the space around calm down as I worked.  TTouch and Reiki both seem to affect the whole space around the animal, as well as affecting the animal who you are working on.  Another cat who I work with often, Coral, was nearby inside a box in a cat tree, and she was snoozing away by the time I finished.

When I felt it was time to stop, I thanked Selena silently, and gently moved away.  For the rest of the time that I was there, she remained relaxed and comfortable, as you see in the photo above.  Today I felt that I reached a very deep part of her and that she was able to really let go.

It felt like such an honor to connect with this dear being, for her to allow me in, especially to make a connection that felt at such a deep level.  I can literally feel it in my heart when this happens, and in myself I feel simultaneously such a profound sorrow and joy in that moment. The sorrow feels like a deep letting go, and the joy feels like an exuberant opening of the heart.

I am so grateful that Reiki and TTouch can enable this type of connection, especially for shelter animals who have been through so much.

I look forward to working with Selena again soon :)

Thanks to all at bideawee who do so much for these dear creatures! 


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Happy Tails for Olivia!

Hi folks - some months back, I worked with a very fearful rescue cat named Olivia (through the Picasso Veterinary Fund/Mayor's Alliance/Tavi and Friends).  Below, you will see a video of me working with her.  Though she was quite shy, I knew that once she could shed some of her fear, a gentle, sweet being was underneath.  As I continued to work with her, I could do the TTouches directly with my hands.  And she grew to enjoy contact more each time.

I am happy to say that she was adopted, and today this beautiful photo below came my way from Barbara Tolan from the Mayor's Alliance.  You can see how comfortable she is.  This certainly made my day!!

Thank you so much to Barbara and all from these organizations who work so hard to find these dear creatures forever homes.  This photo brings such joy to my heart.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Adventures of Emmylou (Lulu) and Natalia - Further and Further

Emmylou and Natalia (Emmylou's name actually has now morphed into Lulu!) are my two cats who came into BARC Shelter two years ago as completely feral cats.  Right away I could tell they were extremely fearful, but very gentle, sweet souls underneath their fear.  They have been in our home for about a year and a half now, and I am so pleased to say that they are doing so well.  Our relationship with them continues to grow every day, and nearly every week there is something new that we can do with them that we never thought possible before. 

We are so grateful to have them in our lives, and they help us to begin each day with joy in our hearts - the minute we get up, they come running to us for affection, excited to start the new day.

In speaking about our journey with them, it is hard to know where to begin! I think with this post I will do a bit of a recap about our acclimation process and then I will do a second post about what is happening now with them. 

Some months after they had been in the shelter (they were still quite shy and were never officially put up for adoption), my dear cat Garbanzo passed away, and it seemed meant to be for me to bring these dear girls home.  I was admittedly terrified at first, not knowing what would happen, but in my heart of hearts I felt it would all be fine.

We quickly realized that they would need to be in a cage for a good amount of time, as it was a whole new experience getting used to our apartment.  Thus began  a VERY gradual acclimation process, with the use of a cat condo (multilevel cat cage with wheels), TTouch, Reiki, treats, various other tools, and of course a huge amount of TLC. Each new thing we did with them, we broke down into baby steps, so that the changes would be so gradual that they would feel natural.  For example, to get them used to the idea that the cage moved, we initially just moved it a few inches, then back to where it was.  When we began to let them out of the cage, it was for very short amounts of time, luring them back into the cage with treats. (Initially, being out of the cage was rather overwhelming for them, even though we did it within the confines of a small bedroom.)

Important to remember is how big those tiny steps can feel to a fearful cat.  At first, even moving the cage a few inches was a lot for them to handle.  And sometimes we would do something that was too big of a step, so we would have to take a little step back, then go forward again.

The cage with wheels was great (thanks so much to our dear friends Alexie and Bim for lending the cage to us and giving us great advice!) because it allowed us to move cages to different parts of the bedroom and, eventually, different parts of the apartment, so that they could see the whole apartment first while still being in the safety zone of the cage.  It also allowed us to walk near them and sit near them while they were in their safe space.  And I was able to do TTouches, Reiki etc with them in the cage pretty easily, as the doors were big enough to be able to really reach in.  We worked with them with baby food, too, having them lick it off our fingers, then gradually petting them while they did this.  We had string toys that we could dangle into the cage with them, to get them used to the idea of play.

The result of all of this was that when we did start letting them out of the cage, they didn't immediately try and hide under things.  They really didn't hide at all.  I did block off some little spaces that would lead to places where they could burrow in, and I did some cat-proofing measures similar to baby-proofing in that I got cord covers for most of the electrical cords, even boxes for the surge protectors.  Some cats like to chew electrical cords, or can inadvertently step on the switches on surge protectors, and I didn't want to take that chance!

When we started letting them out of the cage, that was also in baby steps.  We let them out for short amounts of time and would play with them with string toys and the like, and/or offer baby food to them to lick off our fingers.  So coming out of the cage became a fun time for them.  And we would lure them back into the cage with food or treats.  Once they became comfortable with the bedroom, finally we left the cage door open, keeping the cage there as their safe space, keeping the litter and food and a few toys in there. 

Each day they explored more and more territory in the bedroom.  We have a platform bed with some stairs leading up to it.  At first they were scared of the stairs.  But then one day, they started going up and down the stairs to the bed, first more slowly, then running up and down, making it into a game.  It was a joy starting to see them become more active and playful, and to see them exploring. 

And then, little by little, we started opening the door to the living room and letting the cats come in there for short spurts.  We had taken them in there within the cage, but being in the space out of the cage was a whole new experience.  One thing that was so interesting to see was how Lulu reacted to television.  She was both obsessed with and terrified it - staring at it as though the people there were alive.  So when we realized this, I decided that I would change the TV to a music channel for our first adventures into the living room, then later get her gradually used to the TV.  I do recommend the Soundscapes TV channel as being one that generally plays very soothing music, so I have become accustomed to leaving that channel on for much of the day. 

We got a simple cat tree to put by the window in the bedroom.  At first they seemed a bit daunted by it, but within about a week or so, they began to get up and sit on the platform that is level with the window to watch the birds outside the window.  And now that is one of their favorite things to do - usually one will get on the windowsill and one on the cat tree, but occasionally they will both get in the cat tree.  They adore each other, which is also a joy to experience!

We have a large screen door between the bedroom and living room/kitchen, so that has been very useful.  They can see what is going on in the living room even if they are closed in the bedroom. 

Once they became used to the living room/kitchen area, we finally took the plunge and they were able to explore the whole apartment.  As time went on, they developed their own routines of things they like to do, and we developed a whole routine with their food as well.  They were used to eating their food in the bedroom, so I decided to keep it that way.  The bedroom was kind of their retreat.  And, when we had the cage there, they would eat in the cage in the bedroom.  So I would get the food ready in the kitchen, then say "OK girls go get ready! Go on!" and they go running, parallel to each other, into the bedroom and wait for me (initially they would go back into the cage and wait).  Then I sit down on a low stool while they eat their food.  While I sit with them, I send them calming Reiki energy.  This is still our routine.

We kept the cage in the bedroom with the door open for a few months after they were out of the cage, so that would remain their safe space.  And finally when our friends needed the cage back, it was perfect timing because they really weren't going in the cage any more except to use the litter box. 

And during this whole time, each day we could feel these sweet cats becoming more and more comfortable with us, as they started seeking out our attention more and more - Lulu rubbing her face against my foot, Natalia walking in front of me so I would sit down with her for TTouch.  Each day we felt more of a connection with them, and would see new signs of how at ease they were.

There really is so much to say about this whole experience that I think I could write a book about it.  But the primary feeling that keeps coming back to me is the that with the combination of tools (TTouch, Reiki, treats, toys, Bach flower remedies, calm music, etc), positive intent and unconditional love, so much is possible, more than you could dream of.  It is when you can let go of preconceived notions and expectations, that the most beautiful miracles can happen. 

And to have these two sweet, loving, beings in our home, who have become so much a part of us, is one of those beautiful miracles.